Children Die Playing the "Choking Game"
For the first time, the federal government has counted the number of youths who have died from the so-called "choking game" and discovered at least 82 deaths.
In the game, the kids use ropes, dog collars or bungee cords wrapped around their necks. The participants then choke themselves, believing that when they cut off oxygen, then loosen the rope, they will experience a dreamlike, floating-in-space feeling when blood rushes back into the brain. The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relied on media reports, which it acknowledged is an imprecise method of counting these deaths. The report recommends that medical examiners and coroners be educated about the choking game as a possible explanation of deaths that could otherwise been seen as suicides:
In this study, few of the parents of children who died had been familiar with the choking game. Parents, educators, and health-care providers should learn about the choking game and be able to recognize any of the following warning signs in youths: mention of the choking game (or the game by its other names); bloodshot eyes; marks on the neck; frequent, severe headaches; disorientation after spending time alone; and ropes, scarves, and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor.
An Associated Press story about the study states:
As many as 20 percent of teens and preteens play the game, sometimes in groups, according to estimates based on a few local studies. But nearly all the deaths were youths who played alone, according to the count compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC started the research after receiving a letter last year from a Tacoma, Wash., physician who said her 13-year-old son died from playing the game in 2005.
"At the time I had never heard of this," said Dr. Patricia Russell, whose son was found hanging in his closet, but later learned he had talked to a friend about it.
"One thing that really needs to happen - and is starting to happen now - is to get more information about how common this is," she said.
St. Petersburg Times